Well, it’s all over but the skiing.
Last week, ~2,500 of the world’s powerful and prominent people descended upon a ski town in the Alps to listen, gab, and schmooze until the cows came home (and beyond).
And, yes, the themes of the conference were cooperation and “shared norms” and making the world a better place.
But this is a competitive bunch.
So underneath the cooperation was competition.
Specifically, the fear that, no matter where you were and what you were doing and who you were talking to, somewhere someone else was at a better party, or having more fun, or talking to someone more important.
In short, the fear was that someone else was winning Davos.
And they probably were!
So in the spirit of our theme that the truth about Davos is that it’s just like high school, we have some friendly awards to give out…
Evenings in Davos are all about fighting over who will spend the night with whom.
Specifically, they're about getting all-important face-time with a selected list of prized guests and engendering in these guests warm feelings of happiness and gratitude.
On Thursday night alone, this battle for mindshare at the Belvedere Hotel included PWC, the Financial Times, CNBC, Dow Jones, and McKinsey.
All of these firms, however, were put to shame the next night, by Jim Breyer, Joseph Schoendorf, and others at venture capital firm Accel.
Accel held its party in the Davos art museum. The firm served wines hand-picked by Schoendorf, and hors d'oevres that included dazzling 'black ham' and sashimi. The firm also limited the number of guests, which gave everyone room to move, and the art galleries on either side of the main party hall gave everyone a chance to decompress and check email without seeming anti-social.
One Accel partner described the staggering cost of the party as 'a man in a bathtub ripping up hundred-dollar bills as fast as he can,' but it was worth it. Everyone at Davos was clamoring for an invitation, and the firm won this award hands-down.
Former Facebook president Sean Parker and innovation consultant John Kao met each other in an unusual location -- the Davos emergency room.
Sean had been rushed there after accidentally eating nuts. John had been rushed there after fracturing his eye socket in a car accident.
Sean and John never saw each other in the emergency room--they just talked through a curtain while lying on respective gurneys.
But late that night, when Sean had gone home and John suddenly realised he had no place to stay (there are no sleepover beds in the Davos emergency room), John sent Sean an email. Sean's response was immediate--come on over! And after a few hours of companionship-via-adversity, Sean and John both kicked off the conference with presentations the next morning.
William Jefferson Clinton was his usually charming self when he took the stage on Thursday for a Q&A with Davos host Klaus Schwab.
He had a number of great lines, including about how his daughter Chelsea had to produce some grandchildren so his wife Hillary would be happy.
But his best one came in response to a question about whether America is in terminal decline. Clinton's answer--that America isn't in decline but its relative position in the world is--was preceded by an observation that should get the flags waving on both sides of the aisle:
In the past 200 years, no one has made money by betting against America.
Most CEOs quiver in fear at the thought of saying anything remotely unpopular--even when what they have to say is fair and true.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon isn't one of them.
Instead of the saccarine spin that most banks are uttering these days, in the hope of pacifying Americans still outraged about the bailouts, Dimon just tells it like he sees it.
In his Davos session on Thursday, Dimon blasted the media for lumping all 'bankers' together and denigrating everyone in the business. Some banks were stabilizing influences during the financial crisis, Dimon said, and as the CEO of one of them he wasn't just going to 'bend over and accept it' when the media trashed him and his firm.
Later, in an interview on CNBC, Dimon's colleague Mary Erdoes, head of JP Morgan's asset management business, also had some unscrubbed things to say when asked about the World Economic Forum's insistence that the Forum's big sponsors bring one woman for every four men.
Erdoes told CNBC that she wishes there was no such rule. It makes it a 'thing,' she says, and then you have people wondering, 'is she there because of her accomplishments, or because she's a woman?'
One consistent presence through all of the Davos sessions, events, and press coverage is the World Economic Forum, the non-profit organisation that puts the whole thing on.
And amid the celebration of all the government, corporate, and non-profit success at the conference, the awesome accomplishments of the WEF often go unremarked upon.
The World Economic Forum exists because Klaus Schwab founded it 41 years ago. And in the past 41 years, he and his team have built it into the the world's most prestigious--and valuable--conference.
The WEF is now a $185 million-a-year business, and it is expanding far beyond Davos. The organisation's prestige and mission make the world's most powerful people and organisations want to be associated with it. And the power of the WEF brand is enhanced every minute of every day during the Davos conference.
Klaus Schwab, in other words, is not merely the host of a popular conference. He's one of the world's great brand managers and entrepreneurs.
Davos is CNBC's Superbowl.
Thanks to a huge strategic partnership between GE and the World Economic Forum, the network ships 40-50 people to Switzerland each year, and its brand and stars permeate the whole conference.
On the rooftop of the Congress Centre, where the world's TV networks shoot interviews with the Alps as a backdrop, CNBC has the pole position.
Its 'green room' tent sits right at the top of the stairs, and its outdoor set is many times the size of those of its competitors. To get to where Bloomberg, and Eurovision, and CNN, and the many other networks shoot, interviewees and handlers have to walk by CNBC's gigantic set and tent. And if, perchance, CNBC's army of bookers and producers has overlooked one of them, it's for sure that they'll be approached and scheduled as they walk by.
So it's no accident that most attendees feel that, when it comes to TV coverage, there's CNBC and then all the rest.
Each year, the WEF dubs a hundred or so of the world's startups as 'Technology Pioneers.'
Many of these companies are very cool, including Jose Ferreira's Knewton, Bill Gross's eSolar, and Dennis Crowley's Foursquare.
We knew of many of these cool startups before we got to the conference. But here's one we didn't know of.
Eben Bayer's Ecovative Design.
Based in upstate New York, Ecovative is a biomaterials company that is growing alternatives to conventional plastics. Specifically, Ecovative has invented an organism that converts cow poop into a polymer that can be used in place of styrofoam.
There's a lot of cow poop in the world, and there's a lot of need for cheaper, more eco-friendly materials than styrofoam. Ecovative already makes products that can be used for protective packaging. And this is only the beginning.
Hundreds of folks were tweeting about Davos happenings as they occurred.
The best of the ones we followed was Bill Gross, the CEO of Ubermedia and idealab.
Bill's a Davos and Twitter fanatic. And he's so good at covering live sessions with Twitter that, when he was in the audience, I felt no need to attend.
You can follow Bill yourself, at @Bill_Gross.
No one cares more about what's going on at Davos than the folks at Davos.
(And, truth be told, they care a lot more about it than everyone who isn't there).
And there were several articles about Davos this year that got discussed at Davos.
And none more so than Andrew Ross Sorkin's Davos 'warm-up' article about how much it costs to go to Davos. (Answer: $71,000 for one person and $622,000 for five people).
I discussed this article myself here.
On Thursday, Egypt's government asked Vodafone to turn off the Internet in the country.
On Friday at Davos, Vodafone's CEO Vittorio Colao explained why the company complied.
Vodafone examined its contracts, Colao said, and discovered that Egypt's government did, in fact, have the right to shut the network down. The company also determined that, even if Vodafone refused the request, the government would be able to shut it down.
Colao referred to Thursday as 'a bad day.'
The economic consensus at the conference was that the world was gradually returning to normal, with the biggest threats these days being the stress on the Euro and the impact of social media on the human attention span.
Harvard professor Niall Ferguson disagrees, especially with respect to the United States.
Ferguson said the official theme of Davos this year should have been 'a return to complacency.'
And he predicts a ghastly future for the United States, when our creditors finally understand that the only way out of our massive debt and deficit problem is inflation or default.
The big irony of holding the World Economic Conference in a Swiss ski town is that no one has any time to ski.
Until Saturday, that is.
On Saturday, lots of folks ski. Especially those invited to Reuters' 'Wind-Down' party on the slopes, in which Reuters pays for everything.
Martin was too busy to attend his own 'informal fondue dinner' on Wednesday night, but a dozen other lucky folks weren't.
Corporations pay millions of dollars and fight like cats for the whole five days at Davos to grab a bit of attendees' attention.
So who did the best job of winning hearts and minds?
From the red sports car parked in the lobby of the Belvedere hotel to the two-hour course on 'ice-driving' in brand-new A8's offered free to all attendees, Audi won this one hands down.
Better luck next year, everyone else.
The lobby of the shmoozy Belvedere Hotel looked like the hood of a NASCAR car.
Among the many sponsors who contributed to the branding cacophony were CNBC, Wipro, Dow Jones, PWC, the FT, Rolex, Christ, SBERBANK, Windows Phone 7, Fassbind, and Audi.
The one with the most, um, innovative sponsorship, however, was Deloitte.
Deloitte sponsored a hall.
No one made more of an impact with digital media last week than Robert Scoble.
Between real-time interviews and photos posted to Twitter, combined with blog posts and pro-quality video, @scobleizer was everywhere.
(What list of high-school awards would be complete without this?)
Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable
Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL
Ricardo Villela-Marino, CEO of Banco Itau Unibanco
Louis Bacon, CEO of Moore Capital
Scott Cutler, EVP NYSE Euronext
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan
Nikesh Arora, Google
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Google
Paola Escobar, Editor-in-Chief, Empresa Periodistica El Mercurio SAP
Ofra Strauss, Chaiman, Strauss Group
Ana Botin, Boardmember, Banco Santander
Katrin Bennhold, Paris correspondent, IHT
Oriana Bandiera, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics
Mirjab Staub-Bisang, Founder, Independent Capital Management
If our world is going to be saved improved, it's going to be improved because businesses are going to figure out how to produce more products that can be made and used without hurting people or the planet.
And because existing businesses have profits to protect, that means entrepreneurs are going to have to take the lead.
Linda Rottenberg was omnipresent at Davos this year, as she has been for years.
Her firm, endeavour, is global non-profit that encourages entrepreneurship as a way to drive sustainable economic development.
The hottest ticket at the conference was a session called 'Leadership Under Pressure' by Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger.
Captain Sullenberger saved 150 people when he successfully ditched US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River two years ago and then safely evacuated the aircraft.
In a span of little more than 200 seconds, Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot made a series of critical decisions that made the difference between a remarkable outcome and the far more likely disaster.
The 'double-bird strike' that brought down Flight 1549 was Captain Sullenberger's first dangerous 'incident' in 27 years as a commercial pilot. Sully credited his preparation as the key to success and said he had been preparing for that moment his entire life.
Captain Sullenberger's performance was an inspiration to anyone anywhere who has a job to do. Which is to say, everyone.
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